Mainpuri: A historic shift in Uttar Pradesh politics was signalled from a stage in Mainpuri as two bitter rivals — Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) founder Mulayam Singh Yadav — came together Friday.
The leaders called upon a sea of party workers, in their respective blue and red colours, to respect each other, bury ghosts of the infamous guest house incident of 1995, and defeat the BJP.
The optics of this grand union were also symbolic, and included water, blessings, and the central chair on the dais.
Mayawati in the central chair
The seating was significant. Mayawati reached the Mainpuri stage before the SP leaders and occupied a corner seat, leaving two for Mulayam and his son and SP national president Akhilesh Yadav.
As Mulayam climbed the stage supported by Akhilesh, Mayawati stood up to greet him and the two leaders waved to the crowd. Akhilesh took the corner chair Mayawati had been sitting on, while Mulayam sat on the other corner seat, with Mayawati now in the central chair. BSP supporters read the message clearly: In Mulayam’s home turf, it was Mayawati who occupied the pride of place.
Seconds later, the SP patriarch was offered water by a party worker, but instead, he pointed to Mayawati, asking him whether she had been given water. Mayawati smiled as the party worker came to her, exchanged a few words and blessed him as he touched her feet.
Bua-bhatija bury the ghosts of 1995
The combined strength of the two parties was a visible wave of blue and red party flags and caps. Akhilesh, the one who painstakingly stitched together this alliance, was on his feet, smiling, carrying messages from leaders, whispering to his father, adjusting his microphone and making Mayawati comfortable, in an eager display of his bhatija (nephew) duties towards bua (aunt) Mayawati.
As Mulayam, the alliance’s candidate from Mainpuri, was invited to address the gathering, Mayawati stood up again, making way for her former political rival. In his barely audible speech that lasted for around five minutes, Mulayam urged people to ensure that women are not exploited and later asked them to respect Mayawati.
“Whenever a need has arisen, she has given us support… Today Mayawati ji has come to Mainpuri, we welcome you and I will never forget your favour,” Mulayam said.
Mayawati smiled on. When her turn to speak arrived, she mentioned the infamous 1995 guest house incident right at the beginning of her address. “In the interest of the nation, public and even our party, sometimes we have to take such tough decisions,” Mayawati said.
Lauding Mulayam, she said he had brought together different backward castes, and unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “he is not from a fake backward caste”.
Towards the end of the event, Akhilesh introduced Mayawati’s nephew Akash Anand to his father, who placed his hand on the young man’s head and blessed him.
Akhilesh escorted Mayawati off the stage, leaving party workers and security personnel to assist his father.
Impact on the people
Awadesh Kumar, a 20-year old first-time Jatav voter in the crowd, said he was convinced that the new alliance would “defeat the BJP with a landslide victory in UP”. He said his community has traditionally voted for the elephant (BSP symbol), but this time, it would rally behind Mulayam.
Naveen Yadav, a 23-year-old SP supporter from Mainpuri, agreed: “As you can see, the presence of these two leaders together on stage has given a new sense of confidence and hope to Dalits as well as the backward castes. One is a messiah of OBCs and the other is a messiah of Dalits.”
Mahesh Yadav, a farmer from Mau, added: “Even if the alliance does not distribute a single pamphlet in Mau, it is the gathbandhan which will win.”
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